Holder: Federal review of voting laws still needed

By JEFF AMY | September 27, 2012 | 10:34 PM EDT

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder speaks at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss., Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012. The nation's first black attorney general says preserving civil rights remains a U.S. Justice Department priority. The speech is part of the university's events honoring the 50th anniversary of the Justice Department forcing it to admit its first black student, James Meredith. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Attorney General Eric Holder says U.S. laws requiring the Justice Department or a federal court to pre-approve changes to voting laws in states with a history of racial bias are still needed.

Speaking at the University of Mississippi, Holder said Thursday night that he wished such pre-approval was no longer necessary. But he said that discrimination is not dead, pointing to a recent federal court decision that concluded Texas lawmakers had unfairly drawn legislative districts to exclude minorities.

Holder called federal preclearance of voting laws in the mostly southern states "a vital part of our enforcement action."

Holder's 18-minute speech was part of Ole Miss events marking the 50th anniversary of the admission of James Meredith as the university's first black student. U.S. marshals battled rioters in 1961 to allow Meredith to attend classes.